A copybook ride to guide Defibrillate to victory in the Gr.1 Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2000m) on Boxing day has provided South African jockey Warren Kennedy the chance to place a big tick in the goals accomplished column he set for himself when arriving in New Zealand in late October.
Established at the top of the racing tree in his homeland, Kennedy, his wife and their two young children took a life changing decision to emigrate halfway around the world and try their luck in New Zealand with the aim of testing himself both locally and potentially in Australia
Kennedy has set tongues wagging since making the move as he has displayed his class to the extent he now sits in the top twelve on the National Jockeys’ premiership and has established links with some of the biggest stables in the country.
Kennedy won the last three races on the card at Pukekohe on Boxing Day and was thrilled he could repay the faith placed in him on one of the biggest racedays on the national calendar
“I knew my best rides were in the last three races and everything just fell into place with all three winning,” Kennedy said.
“To pick up my first Group One success in New Zealand was something very special.
“When I moved here that goal was at the top of my list and to be able to do it so quickly is just fantastic, as it takes the monkey off your back and shows people they can have faith in you to ride for them in the biggest races.
“I guess I was just lucky to be on the right horse, but he did a super job to get the win.
“The pace was a little stronger than I had anticipated, but it allowed me to get my horse into a good rhythm and really he just did it all himself from then on.
“He is very competitive at the top level here and I have already pencilled in to ride him in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m) next time as I think he will be very hard to beat again.
“My other two winners (Habana and Uderzo) are also nice horses and I think they both have good futures ahead of them.
“Uderzo still has a lot to learn but once he gets his manners sorted out he will go places, while it was very satisfying winning on Habana as I spend a fair bit of time at Lance Noble’s stable and they have been one of my big supporters since I moved here.”
Kennedy and his family haven’t had much time to catch their breath since making the move to New Zealand as they work through the many tasks required to settle into the Kiwi lifestyle.
“It has been hectic but it’s hard not to enjoy it all when you are doing well,” he said.
“I have had great support as I’ve gone about my business, while my wife has been busy getting the kids into a routine and settled into our place here at Karaka.
“The location at Karaka is great as it is close to the motorway so I can get down to the Waikato when I need to while it does make it easier with the travel you have to do for raceday.
“The big thing we have found is just how wonderful Kiwis are as everyone has just been so welcoming and friendly and we are loving that.
“We have also had plenty of support from back home which is nice.
“When I announced what I was doing there were plenty who wished us well and helped us out which we we’re very thankful for.”
With his family settling in nicely it has allowed Kennedy to think about where his future lies and what he needs to do to achieve some of his other life goals.
“We came here to provide our children with all the opportunities a country like New Zealand has to offer and this will always be our base from now on,” he said.
“I would like to establish myself here and that may open up the chance to ride in Australia a little later on.
“It might be a bit cheeky but winning an Australian Group One on a Kiwi horse is another of my goals.
“When you win at the top level it just makes you hungry for more so I want to grasp every opportunity I get so that I can compete against the best wherever that may be.”